The American League is very wide open, but oddsmakers only believe a certain number of teams can win it. That’s why there are some very enticing AL futures odds prices for consideration. The hardest part about narrowing down the field is that most people believe that 14 of the 15 teams can make it to the playoffs. Oakland is the only team being written off on a consistent basis.
The additional wild card spot in both leagues has added to the intrigue. Teams that otherwise would have gotten a date with the top seed in the ALDS or NLDS now have to win a one-game, do-or-die playoff “series” in order to advance past that one game. It seems almost unfair to have a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates that won 98 games go home because of a one-game sample, but that’s the nature of the beast in Major League Baseball right now.
The first step, the hardest step, is getting there. The second step is to get into a position to win a playoff series. The final step is actually doing it. That’s a lot of steps over a 162-game season, but that’s the way that the game is played. As a result, American League Pennant odds are all over the map for a division with a lot of high-floor, low-ceiling teams.
In terms of American League Pennant odds, here are the prices from BetDSI Sportsbook (click the team name for Adam Burke’s MLB season win total analysis):
Houston Astros +590
Toronto Blue Jays +614
Boston Red Sox +649
Kansas City Royals +768
Cleveland Indians +835
Texas Rangers +904
New York Yankees +967
Detroit Tigers +1137
Los Angeles Angels +1352
Seattle Mariners +1573
Chicago White Sox +1734
Baltimore Orioles +2202
Tampa Bay Rays +2514
Minnesota Twins +2727
Oakland Athletics +4058
Three teams to watch:
Cleveland Indians (+835): The biggest challenge for the Indians is getting to the playoffs. Once they get there, they will be a very hard team to beat. Any opponent runs the risk of catching Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar twice in a best-of-seven series. The New York Mets had a lot of success with their power rotation in the NL playoffs last season and the Indians could see similar success if they can make it to October. The Indians also have a lot of excellent trade currency in the minor leagues to make a deal for a playoff push if one is required. Michael Brantley isn’t expected to miss that much time and the Indians should be in the hunt throughout the season.
Texas Rangers (+904): By the time the playoffs roll around, the Rangers should be trotting out a rotation with Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish at the top. It almost doesn’t matter who comes third, but it could be a healthy Martin Perez or possibly Derek Holland. The Rangers got invaluable playoff experience from last year’s disappointment and a few players are still holdovers from the back-to-back World Series losing teams in 2010 and 2011. Two very different pitchers with excellent arsenals in a short series is very concerning.
Tampa Bay Rays (+2514): It’s hard to find a better value pick for this than Tampa Bay, who is getting no respect and does not belong behind a few of these teams. Chris Archer is a bona fide front of the rotation arm and the supporting cast is pretty good as well. If Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi, and Erasmo Ramirez can stay healthy this year, the Rays have a pretty high ceiling overall. The division is tight and they are a long shot underdog, but you might as well take a shot if you are going to tie up futures money for a long time.
Teams to avoid:
New York Yankees (+967): Almost 10/1 odds on the Yankees might seem like a lot of fun and a good value, but this is a team has a lot of injury question marks. Many of the everyday hitters are on the wrong side of the aging curve. Masahiro Tanaka hasn’t worked a full season yet. Michael Pineda has a medical history that is probably three feet thick. CC Sabathia is out of rehab, but there’s only so much rehab he can do on his bum knee. With a dominant bullpen, the Yankees are almost like fool’s gold here in the futures market. That bullpen can shorten a series in a hurry. The problem is that the Yankees face a major uphill climb to get to October.
Toronto Blue Jays (+614): There’s a ton to like about the Toronto Blue Jays, namely the power and defense combination of the team’s position players. Josh Donaldson is elite on both sides of the coin and Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista hit for a lot of power. Kevin Pillar can really go and get it in the outfield. However, who will the Blue Jays use in the postseason rotation? Beyond Marcus Stroman, there’s very little to get excited about. The bullpen is good, but the Blue Jays are the type of team that will get there, run into good pitching, and lose.